Eileen o’ the Mist is annoyed when she learns her brother Kieran has arranged for a braefolk man to court her. On the other hand, what is a tall colleen to do when the local gossoons would have to stand on a bucket to kiss her? She agrees to meet with Sean McTavish and see if they can come to terms. All seems well, but Sean has an alter ego. Can Eileen come to terms with Shamus too? And why does Sean conjure a yellow dress for Eileen to wear? There’s someone waiting beyond the mist, and Eileen needs her courage to venture there.
Kieran Shamrock was playing his fiddle while his small sons danced solemnly with their sisters. It was a grand sight, though Sinead and Ashling were such a contrast to their leprechaun brothers. Kieran loved his family with a passion that went beyond his love of tatties, poteen and his beechwood fiddle, and considered himself the most blessed of men in the green way.
He stopped playing when his sister stepped into the cottage. Eileen o’ the Mist was a handsome colleen with green eyes and a cloud of black hair. She was ten years his junior and more than a head taller, and he loved her too, with a mix of bewildered pride and dread of what she might do next. His other sisters and his lovie, Tally, had raised Eileen between them. But as the eldest in the family, he had tried to be her guide and refuge. He had always kept the door open to her—unless he was with Tally in the other room—but she was a distant star.
“Kieran. A word.”
Kieran laid aside his fiddle with care. “Shoo now. Run down to the apple loft and take the big basket for your mammy,” he said to his children.
Sinead, his eldest, looked as if she would argue, but Kieran jerked his head at the door. “Go now, darlin’.”
When the four had gone, Kieran turned to his sister. “Top o’ the noon to ye, Eileen.”
She continued to gaze at him. A thunderstorm might have looked friendlier.
“Should I be wetting the tay?”
Her chin rose a little.
“If you’re wanting your word, you’d best have it before Tally comes home. You know she’s not happy wid the shouting.”
“I don’t intend to shout.”
“Then what do you intend, darlin’?”
“Don’t you darlin’ me, Kieran Shamrock.”
“For the love o’ Paddy’s toenails, Eileen, get on wid it! It’s clear you intend to give me a bollockin’, though I’ve no clue what I’ve done to deserve it.”
Eileen shook the straw off her skirts in a menacing manner. She must have come straight from the dairy. “You have no idea, have you?”
“None,” he said frankly.
“No recollection at all of a recent conversation with a red-headed giant?”
“Oh, that’d be Hamish McTavish, second laddie o’ Lachlan an’ sweet Jenny o’ the braw house up the brae. He was here wid his lovie, friend o’ Tally from over there and a court man name o’ Gervais St Clair, also a lovie o’ the lass.”
“That’s what I heard from Tally,” Eileen said. Her face softened, as it usually did when she thought of Kieran’s lovie. Everybody adored Tally, and after close to a score of years as her lovie, Kieran still could scarcely believe his luck.
“What’s put you in a pither though, Eileen?”
She inhaled, straining her bodice and returning to her thunderous mien. “Tally said you charged Hamish McTavish with a message for his brother, wee Sean.”
Kieran looked wary. “So I did. I thought it would please you, Eileen. You’ve passed twenty-six an’ it’s high time you were courted.”
“I don’t deny that. I have said as much.”
“You’re a handsome colleen, good wid the cows, good-natured…mostly.”
“I don’t deny that either.”
“Why the gossoons aren’t lined up from here to Paddytown for your favours I cannot say.”
“Oh, I can tell you that.” Eileen’s face creased suddenly into a grin.
“I wish you would.”
“Come now, Kieran…you know why. I’m much too big.”
“Indeed, you’re bigger than most colleens, but—”
“I put it to you…when you flung your horseshoe in the ring for a lovie did you go after a fine strapping colleen a head your taller? Did you seek out a busty braefolk lassie? No, you went to the beechmaster and sued for Tally.”
Kieran looked at her helplessly.
“Of course you did. It was one of the most intelligent things you have ever done. I was proud of you and still am. Tally is warm, sweet-natured, light on her feet and light in her heart.”
He nodded, smiling.
“Beech maids are always small, darlin’, and sure, I’m small meself.”
“Exactly. Tally comes to your shoulder and goes on tip-toe to kiss you. Most of the leppy gossoons from here to Paddytown, as you put it, would have to climb on a bucket to kiss me.”
“So? Buckets are plentiful.”
“But why would they bother when there are smaller colleens a’plenty, and tree maids, pixie misses and elf women to be had?”
Kieran brightened. “Then Highland Sean is the very man for you, darlin’.”
“Highland Sean is braefolk.”
“He’s a leprechaun. Auld man Lachlan has leppy blood, and it came out hard in Sean. Alannah said so.”
“So, he’s a braefolk leppy. Neither the one or t’other.”
“Likely he’s big for a leppy,” Kieran suggested.
“Tally said the red giant termed him wee Sean.”
Eileen sighed. “And on those grounds, you asked a giant braefolk man to send his brother to court me on your say-so?”
“I did so. I thought it would please ye.”
“Did you indeed.”
Eileen raised her hand, and Kieran shied, but she merely scruffed his hair affectionately. “I suppose you meant it kindly, but you just can’t go around asking strange men to ask other strange men to come and inspect me with a view to purchase. I’m not a cow.”
“He’s not a strange man.”
“You’ve never met the giant before that day and not the leppy at all.”
“Listen, though. Tally’s friend Flori from over there came with Hamish o’ the brae and the court man. She’s their lovie.”
Eileen gave an exasperated sigh. “I see. A woman from over there has two strapping lovies while I have none.”
“Listen, darlin’. Tally says her friend is loved up wid all her heart. The brae man looks to her wid his heart in his eyes.”
“What has that to do with me, Kieran?”